Not many teams can say they have a winning record against Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Tom Coughlin is 5-1 in his career against Belichick and 3-1 since 2008 with two super bowl rings. When Belicheck was asked about Coughlin his response was “Tom is very intense”. Pot meet kettle. Coughlin and Belicheck are disciples from the Parcells Giants era when Belichick was the defensive coordinator and Coughlin the wide receiver coach in the late 80’s. If there is one coach in the NFL that doesn’t fear the Patriots, it’s Tom Coughlin. Sunday’s game is strikingly similar to week 17 in 2007 when the Giants turned around their season and hosted the 15-0 Patriots in the final regular season game. The Giants had secured their place in the playoffs as a wildcard. Nothing required the Giants to play with the intensity they did that night other than to show the NFL that Tom Coughlin doesn’t take a game off. Sitting in the end zone seats that night I can tell you that outside of attending the Super Bowl 5 weeks later, the intensity in Giants Stadium and on the field was unbelievable. Many of the Giants will attest that during that game the Patriots were forced to show many different looks previously not shown during the regular season. These new looks gave the Giants an edge when they would meet again in Glendale. A great read regarding this game is a story about the voicemail left by John Madden for Tom Coughlin following the loss that night.
Here we are 8-years later and the Giants are hosting the 8-0 Patriots but this time the Giants need a win. With a slim 1-game lead over the Eagles (0-1) the Giants can’t afford another loss especially as the Eagles next three games include the Dolphins, Bucs and Lions. Past results not indicative future performance; no words could better suit this game.
From an offensive standpoint you can expect both teams to be explosive though both the Giants and Patriots rushing games are bottom 1/4th of the league. It’s okay because both of the teams do throw the ball effectively and frequently. The Giants have attempted 340 passes this season with the Patriots attempting 328. As we saw in New Orleans a shootout isn’t a problem for the Giants and the offense. It’s the defense that is the question mark.
In the 2015 version the roles have been reversed on defense. The Giants have the league’s lowest sack total of 9, while the Patriots triple that total with the NFL’s second highest total of 27. Chandler Jones the defensive end for the Patriots has 9.5 sacks along this season; topping the entire Giants defense. With the league’s worst pass defense matching up against the third best passing offense the Giants will be desperate to get to the Brady and create pressure. With multiple injuries to the Patriots offensive line that can be a possibility. Possible, but probable? Who knows!
There are many things the Giants can focus on for this game. How do they slow down the Brady, Gronk and Edleman? What if the Patriots abandoned the pass and attack with Blount & White running the ball against a bottom third rush defense? The most difficult aspect of preparing for the Patriots is they don’t show the same scheme or play calling from week to week. Like all NFL teams the Giants are suffering from injuries, on defense as well as on offense. If there was a time for the front four to step and bring real pressure to the quarterback this is the week to do so. The thought of our linebackers and safeties matching up with a shifty Edleman (remember the Cowboy game where Beasley ran wild) or matching Gronk whose speed and size are freakish.
Outside of the Cowboy game there is no surprise that when the Giants win they control the time of possession. The best way to beat a great offense is to keep them off the field. But with an offense that can’t get a running game going all too often it feels more like a shootout than a game of control. Over the past two games the Giants have drastically improved their redzone offense (6/8) and the goal to go (4/4). If the running game continues to struggle than the offense needs to improve their 3rd down conversions one way or another. On the season the Giants convert 39.2% of the time and a woefully 21% of the time over the past two games.
Sunday will be a test to what the Giants can do with the limited resources they have available.
“Just called to congratulate you and your team for a great effort last night. Not good, but great. I think it’s one of the best things to happen in the NFL in the last ten years, and I don’t know if they all know it, but they should be very grateful to you and your team for what you did. I believe so firmly in this: that there is only one way to play the game, and it is a regular season game and you go out and win the darn game. I was just so proud being a part of the NFL and of what your guys did and the way you did it. You proved that it’s a game and there’s only one way to play the game and you did it. The NFL needed it. We’ve gotten too much of, “Well, they’re going to rest their players and don’t need to win, therefore they won’t win.” Well, that’s not sports and that’s not competition. I’m a little emotional about it. I’m just so proud. It’s something we all need to thank you for, and I believe the NFL needed that.”